Before trying any home remedies for a cold, it is important to determine that the illness is just a cold and not something more serious. Most common colds will run their course with rest and plenty of fluids, but taking some easy steps can help speed up the recovery process as long as it is a cold and not a more serious illness. If the cold persists for more than a week to ten days, or if conditions worsen, it is important to consult a doctor to eliminate the possibility of a more serious illness.
Some home remedies for a cold include bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Fluids help prevent dehydration, which can weaken the already taxed immune system as it fights the cold germs. Water and other fluids such as orange juice and tea can also help break up congestion, making it easier to breathe and keeping the throat from becoming inflamed. Sugary drinks and most caffeinated drinks should be avoided, as they are likely to dehydrate the body. As one of the most common home remedies for a cold, rest allows the body to focus on fighting the cold rather than on other normal daily functions, so it will be important to rest more than one would normally rest during a typical day.
Many home remedies for a cold focus on breaking up congestion. Hanging one's head over a steaming bowl of water can help break up congestion, thereby avoiding a dry, sore, scratchy throat. Blowing the nose frequently can also help avoid too much congestion that can lead to a sore throat or other problems. It is important, however, to avoid blowing the nose improperly; if a person blows his or her nose too vigorously, mucus can reach the ear passages, which can in turn cause an ear infection. Blow one nostril at a time to empty it of phlegm, then repeat the process on the opposite nostril.
Gargling with salt water and drinking lemon juice and honey tea are other home remedies for a cold that are aimed at breaking up mucus. The lemon juice and honey combination both breaks up mucus and soothes the throat, so if a sore throat and cough is accompanying the cold, this method will work well toward alleviating cold symptoms.